CHICAGO -- The Bulls introduced Dwyane Wade to the media on Friday, capping an unlikely homecoming for the man who had spent his entire 13-year career with the Miami Heat before bolting for his favorite childhood team earlier this month.
In one of his first moves as a Bull, Wade made something of his own official as it pertains to Jimmy Butler's standing in Chicago.
"This is Jimmy's team," Wade said. "It won't be a tug and pull whose team it is."
Wade's comments come on the heels of new Bulls point guard Rajon Rondo saying at his own introductory news conference earlier this month that the Bulls had "three alphas" between Wade, Butler and himself, but that it was Butler's team moving forward.
Wade recalled what happened back in 2004, when Shaquille O'Neal was traded from the volatile Los Angeles Lakers to Miami in the offseason.
"We had no championships at the time, and I remember his press conference," Wade said. "I was playing in the Olympics at the time, like Jimmy is right now. And I remember Shaq said: 'We're not going to go through this all year. This is Dwyane Wade's team.'
"So, we're not going to go through this all year. This is Jimmy Butler's team. Myself and Rondo are here to bring what we bring as athletes to this team and to this city. He's the young Bull on this team. He's a 26-year-old who can play 40 minutes if coach wants him to and maybe more. I ain't trying to do all that. And we're going to depend on him a lot."
How Butler adjusts to his role as face of the franchise is one of the single biggest questions surrounding the Bulls entering 2016-17. Butler clashed at times with veteran teammates last season as he tried to take a more vocal leadership role while developing into one of the best two-way players in the NBA.
Butler demurred when asked what Wade's words meant to him.
"Is it my team? I guess two of the three alphas have said that," Butler said after Team USA's win over Venezuela on Friday night. "I don't think you'll ever hear me say that. It's not in me to do so. But I do need to step up, I need to help us win a lot of games. I'm liking that role as a leader, adds a lot of pressure, I want that. I want that. It's only going to make me better. But I think I got a lot of help within Rondo, D-Wade obviously. You go down the list, Niko [Mirotic], Doug [McDermott]. I think we're going to have a really good team.
"I'm grateful for the comments that they have been saying. Hopefully I can live up to that on the court. I'm ready for that. I work hard enough, so we'll see."
The fact that Wade quashed any idea of a potential rift with Butler regarding the team's pecking order was a smart public relations move for the 12-time All-Star. He noted that Butler helped recruit him to Chicago.
"I've known him since Marquette," Wade said of Butler, who also played for the Golden Eagles. "I have tremendous respect for him. This would not have happened if it hadn't been for Jimmy Butler. That was huge.
"At the time, I didn't know it. Derrick Rose leaves, [Joakim] Noah leaves. To want to bring in a guy like myself, it shows what Jimmy's about: It's winning. We all play together with one common goal: to win. Jimmy is going to grow and become a better player because of what Rondo brings and what I bring."
Butler is confident he can mesh quickly with Wade and Rondo.
"I think that we're going to play extremely well together," Butler said. "The three alphas as people would call it. I think the direction that we're moving. We're already talking, trying to get to know each other off the floor. We play against each other all the time, but now that we're on the same team, we have to get better on the floor. I'm excited for it. I can't wait til training camp gets here. I hope I'm on the opposite team sometimes just at them."
Wade's verbal plaudits for Butler, meanwhile, also gave public credence to the idea that Bulls general manager Gar Forman broached in his initial comments Friday. Forman and the Bulls front office are hopeful that Wade's "presence and intangibles," not to mention the respect he has earned by winning three NBA titles with the Heat, will help unify what was a fractured Chicago locker room last season. For his part, Wade is just enjoying the idea of playing for his hometown team.
"I'm thankful to be here today," Wade said. "This is one of those moments that is a dream come true. Simply that. I'm a Chicago guy, a Chicago kid. I remember sitting on the floor and watching the Chicago Bulls win their first title. I was 9 years old, watching on an itty bitty TV, and I said, 'That's what I want to do, that's who I want to be.'
"My dream of being an NBA player started here in my hometown. Took a long time to get here, but I'm here."
Wade, who turns 35 in January, wouldn't commit to whether he is planning to make Chicago his final career stop, preferring to take it year-by-year. But the Bulls are hopeful Wade will be able to use his influence around the league to help his new team land a star free agent in the future, like he did in Miami.
On Friday, Wade also tried to knock down the idea that there is bad blood between him and Pat Riley, but Wade acknowledged the Heat president "didn't call, email or text" in an attempt to keep him in Miami.
"I had a contract offer from Miami. It was my decision to be selfish and live out a dream of mine," Wade said. "This was a decision solely for me. It has nothing to do with Pat Riley or (owner) Micky Arison. I wanted to be a part of building this organization back up."
In order to do that, Wade knows he is going to have to lean on Butler a lot next season.
Butler, who is in town with Team USA as it gets ready for a Friday night Olympic tuneup against Venezuela, stood in the background behind the assembled media wearing a big smile on his face during portions of Wade's remarks.
"Myself and Rondo are going to bring experience," Wade said. "Jimmy's the young Bull, playing 40 minutes, maybe more. I ain't going to do all that. We're going to depend on him a lot."